One of the Most Important Things a Parent Can Remember

Featured imageA few years ago one of the other pastors at church gave me a short book called, “How to Really Love your Teenager” by D. Ross Campbell. Honestly, I didn’t love the book as a whole, but there is one thing from the book that has really impacted me (and that alone make the book easily worth the recommendation!). Campbell talks about the many teenagers he has seen for counseling and drives the point home that there is a difference between knowing that you are loved and feeling loved.

Parents, our kids need to know they are loved. But if they only know that as a fact it isn’t enough. Our kids need to feel loved too.

Anyone who knows me personally  knows that I’m not much of a feeler. This does not come naturally to me. But I am committed that my kids feel loved. You may be tempted to say, “Mike, your kids are young. Just wait until they’re teenagers!” It will get more difficult as they become teens, I know that… but it’s never easy. The sooner you start, the better. The later you start nurturing your kids feelings, the harder it will become.

I think this issue boils down to two things: love and trust.

When we get to the root of it all, I suspect that these two issues are simply two sides of the same question: “Are you for me?”

This might sound like a ridiculous question until we consider our sinful nature. We are all naturally prone to living for ourselves and it is a work of the Holy Spirit to truly and genuinely put others first.

As parents, we need to die to ourselves daily, thus providing a faithful example of the call of the gospel to our kids. It is by dying to ourselves that we find our life in Christ, and it is through Christ that we find the love our kids truly need. When we are living in the love of God, our kids (no matter how old or young they are) will be blessed by knowing and feeling loved.

God’s Inefficiency

“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.
For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person
one would dare even to die —
but God shows his love for us
in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Romans 5:6-8

Imagine if “at just the right time” was at a time when the Sermon on the Mount could have been live-streamed across the world. People from all nations would have been able to see and hear Jesus, witness his miracles, and invite him to fly to their nation. God could have made “at just the right time” to be a technological age. But he didn’t.

Instead, God’s “at just the right time” was a time when travel was difficult and slow and dangerous. It proves that God is inefficient. Not inefficient because he lacks ability, and not because he is disorganized. This is no excuse to be wasteful, after all, “People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). It is precisely because the “how” matters that “the right time” was during an age when technology consisted of papyri and cargo ships which would spread knowledge, wealth and culture beyond anything previously imaginable. God’s inefficiency challenges our understanding of what “progress” really is.

As we consider our technologically advanced culture, let us remember that God chose dirty paths over well maintained highways as the road for the Son of God to walk upon. He chose personal face-to-face relationships over video-conferencing. He chose a group of men who consistently failed to understand what he was saying instead of the religious pace-setters. He chose an approach that many today would consider incredibly inefficient.

As you look at your life, consider the people who have had the greatest impact on you. I’m willing to go out on a limb and guess they were people who went out of their way to nurture and invest in you. Maybe it’s time for each of us to look at our busy lives and reconsider where we are spending our time and how we’re trying to get the word out about who God is and what he’s done for us through Jesus Christ.

If you’re anything like me, technology has a way of making us feel more productive than we really are. It convinces us that we have cultivated more relationships than we really have. It has a way of sucking us in and chewing up our time, ironically creating distance between us and the people who are right next to us. Let’s not fear technology, but let’s make sure it is serving us instead of the other way around.

The gospel is inherently personal and relational. May our commitment to spreading it reflect those characteristics.

A Different Kind of Famine

30 Hour Famine logo

We’ve done World Vision’s 30 Hour Famine for the last decade, and in the time we’ve raised over $17,000 to fight world hunger! Think about that… 17,000!!!

You can make a difference… especially when you’re one piece of a bigger team. Join EBC Youth Group as we make a difference together. I would love to see us raise $3000 this year and push past $20,000 for total contributions to the Famine. You can go HERE to sign up to join EBC’s team and collect donations online.

What is the 30 Hour Famine?
We give up eating food for 30 hours in order to raise money to fight world hunger. It’s so much easier to do this together than it is to try doing it alone… you can do it! As we experience the temporary pains of hunger we remember a few things: 1. We know where our next meal will come, many people have no idea when or where they will next eat, 2. Our hunger for food reminds us of our hunger for God, who gives us true and everlasting life, and 3. We are called to be servants and to put the needs of others before our own.

This Year’s Focus: More than World Hunger
This year during the 30 Hour Famine we will be focused on the biblical call to justice in multiple ways:

Chosen at EBC

Friday Night: “Chosen”
You can read more about this portion of our Famine, but we have set this aside as a larger way to spread the word about the tragedy of Human Trafficking in America. We have invited other youth groups and adults from local churches to come to EBC to watch a 30 minute movie about two teenage girls who have been rescued from Human Trafficking. This will be very eye-opening for many of us, and we hope that it will better equip each of us to identify two things: 1. Know the signs of human trafficking, and 2. Know what to do if we suspect someone we know to be a victim of human trafficking.

Obviously, Human Trafficking is a mature topic, but we do encourage for junior high student to attend since 12-14 year olds are the primary targets of traffickers. Parents, the decision is yours, and we completely respect your decision for your son or daughter. If you would prefer for your son/daughter to participate in the 30 Hour Famine but not in the Chosen/Human-Trafficking-Awareness then you can bring him/her at 8:00am Saturday morning (please let me know ahead of time).

Saturday Morning: Providence Rescue Mission
We have been cultivating a relationship with the Providence Rescue Mission for the last four years during the Famine. Our morning will start off with a devotional time together and then we’ll head down to Providence where we will help clean the dorm where PRM provides overnight shelter for people to sleep. In the past we’ve helped run a free clothing drive for families in the community, organized their food pantry, organized their clothing distribution center, and helped prepare food for their lunchtime service. This is a great organization we’re excited to encourage and partner with again.

Saturday Afternoon/Evening: World Vision
To conclude our time together we will walk through World Vision’s ministry and where our money is going. World Hunger is such a serious and wide-ranging problem we don’t often feel like there’s anything we can do about it. But we are making a difference. With every $1 we raise, 1 person will be fed, clothed, and receive the medical attention they need for 1 day. That means EBC has helped this happen 17,000 times!

What Do I Need to Know Before I Come?

  • April 24-25th, come at 6:00pm on Friday night, pickup is at 6:30pm on Saturday. Please arrive promptly at 6:00pm Friday so we can get settled into the youth room before the Chosen event begins at 7:00pm.
  • When should I stop eating? Stop eating at Noon on Friday the 24th and we will eat together at 6:00pm on Saturday.
  • What can I drink? We will have lots of water on site. There will be occasional juice-breaks for those who “need” them. We will have crackers on hand for those who are feeling sick (just in case!), but I don’t anticipate anyone needing them.
  • What to Bring: Sleeping bag & pillow, toothbrush & toothpaste, change of clothes, Famine donations, Bible, if you have a journal/diary you can bring that too!
  • How do I sign up: Go here to join EBC’s team on World Vision’s website. Fundraising envelopes are available in the Youth Room, make sure you pick one of those up and read through the info inside.
  • What if I need to come late or leave early? Talk to Pastor Mike and you can work out the details.

Worth Your Time 4/10/15

Each Friday I try to provide a few articles that are worth the time of parents and youth workers. These articles span a number of issues, and not all are written by Christians, but they are all “worth your time.” Here’s the latest edition:

The Most Important Thing My Parents Did, by Tim Challies (Challies)
“I ask the question from time-to-time. Why are all five of my parents’ kids following the Lord, while so many of our friends and their families are not? Obviously I have no ability to peer into God’s sovereignty and come to any firm conclusions. But as I think back, I can think of one great difference between my home and my friends’ homes—at least the homes of my friends who have since walked away from the Lord and his church.”

Kids, Marijuana, and Reasoning Through the Dangers, by Walt Mueller (CPYU)
“In this case, the culture isn’t doing any favors for those of us who want to steer kids away from that which can cause harm of all kinds. Even when science offers compelling evidence, a growing number of kids are recklessly, impulsively, and foolishly choosing to do long-term harm to themselves. . . and justifying it all as benign.”

Do You Believe in Confirmation Bias, by Kenneth R. Morefield (Christianity Today)
“If Do You Believe? sometimes feels less tribal and triumphal than God’s Not Dead, it’s probably because Bobby’s story and the doctor’s story aren’t the center of the film (like Radisson’s), since they’re interwoven with several other storylines. …When [Christian movies] represent Christians interacting with other Christians or depict Christians struggling with internal conflicts, they are rarely culturally offensive and often inspiring or uplifting. But when they portray Christians interacting with non-Christians, they rely too much on flat, stereotypical villains whose only real function is to deliver rhetorical equivalents of slow, hanging curveballs for the Christian heroes to knock out of the park.”

The Most Widely Misunderstood Story in the Bible, by Lyndon Unger (Cripplegate)
“I’d suggest that the most widely known is probably the story of David and Goliath, and that story is always misunderstood…hence the title. Usually, the story is generally taken as some sort of underdog tale meant to encourage people to tackle impossible odds, or something along those lines. Sorry. That is not what it’s about.”

Never Sorry Enough, by Tim Challies (Challies)
“My friend expressed remorse and asked forgiveness, just like he should have. There were no amends he could make and no further actions he could take to make things right—that was not the nature of this offense. So he moved on. We remained friends. … But sometimes that old hurt would creep up. Sometimes I would find myself hurt all over again by that old offense. … I had judged his apology sincere but insufficient, well-intentioned but trite…. I had to see that no one can ever be sorry enough. No one can ever be contrite enough. Not him, and not me.

What Does the Bible Really Teach About Homosexuality?, by Kevin DeYoung (DeYoung @ The Gospel Coalition)
You can find a number of helpful resources here about the forthcoming book, “What Does the Bible Really Teach About Homosexuality?” on this page.

Human Trafficking = Slavery… What Can You Do?

Chosen at EBC


What comes to mind when you hear that word. Obviously, most of our minds go to the slave plantations and the horrendous slave trade that mars America’s early history. I would never make light of what has happened in the past, but it’s important for us to realize that slavery still happens in America today.

There is still a slave trade, and most of the victims are children who are being sold for sexual “services.”

Quick Snapshot About Human Trafficking (thanks to Shared Hope International)

  • The average child is 13 years old when first trafficked and exploited through prostitution.
  • At least 100,000 children are trafficked in America every year. Not all victims of human trafficking are girls, boys are also victims of this horrendous epidemic.
  • Children who run away from home are highly likely to get caught in a web of prostitution and trafficking.
  • Young girls are commonly trafficked in strip clubs, hotel rooms, and online.
  • Buyers report being 21 years old the first time they paid for sexual services.

“Chosen” Film at EBC

As traffickers narrow their target to lure younger and younger victims, America’s youth find themselves engaged in a battle they never prepared for. Hear the shocking true stories of two “All-American” teenage girls tricked into trafficking. Join us for an evening of discussion and prayer following a short documentary film by Shared Hope International on this issue.

EBC will be hosting an event on Friday, April 22nd for anyone Junior High and older to grow more informed about warning signs of human trafficking and how you can be part of the solution.

Is This Inappropriate for Junior Highers?
In my opinion, no. Each parent is encouraged to make the decision for their junior higher, and every kid is different and is at different levels of maturity. However, please keep in mind that 12-14 year olds are the most targeted group by traffickers, so it would be wise to at least attend yourself and then talk with your son/daughter about the topic sometime in the following week.

Click here to register!

Friday, April 24, 2015
7:00 – 9:00pm
Emmanuel Baptist Church
63 Rockwood Road (Rt. 115)
Norfolk, MA 02056

Youth Ministry & Seminary: Why Bother?


On the Facebook groups I’m a part of, this seems to be a fairly regular question: “People keep encouraging me to go to seminary. Is it worth it for youth pastors?” As someone who has studied to complete two seminary degrees (M.Div. & D.Min., both at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary), and as someone who has been in fulltime youth ministry for a decade, I think I’m qualified to finally address this question on the blog. What I’ve written below is largely based off my M.Div. since that’s far more common. If you would like to discuss the benefits of a D.Min. please comment on this post and we can dialogue there.

I want to address three common objections before presenting some reasons why I believe seminary is important (not essential, but important) for anyone who is called to lifelong pastoral ministry. After those three objections, you’ll see my list of arguments for why seminary is worth pursuing.

Why Seminary? Continue reading

What is the Gospel?

Do you know the gospel? Ok, great! Let’s hear it. Right now, in under a minute. What if you had three minutes to explain the gospel to someone in a way that was understandable, biblical, and compelling? Could you do that?

Christians talk about the gospel a lot, but I think most of us are unprepared to actually share the gospel with people. Hopefully I’m wrong, but I’d be surprised. Here are three things that I am absolutely convinced need to be in any presentation of the gospel (whether you’re talking with a friend or preaching from a pulpit).

1. Sin & Judgment
Without talking about sin, there’s simply no need for a savior. If I’m fine and can handle life on my own by being better than the next guy, then I don’t really need God.

But if sin is real and judgment is coming, then sin is a big deal. We shouldn’t talk about judgment in a way that we are the ones doing the judging, but simply to ask the question, “What if there is a God and you’re called to stand before him to answer for your sin? What would you have to say for yourself?” Because, as much as we may argue against Christ, I think most people know that they’re more sinful than they would admit.

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” Romans 3:23-24

The reality is we will all need to answer before God. The bad news is that we’re all guilty; the good news is Jesus came to declare us innocent.

2. Jesus’s Death and Resurrection
If Jesus is the doorway through which we enter, the cross and the empty tomb are the hinges. Much to my frustration, I have heard many “gospel presentations” at large evangelistic youth events where the cross and resurrection have been either completely absent or so briefly mentioned they merely got a head-nod.

Read through the book of Acts and see how the Apostles preached the gospel. They always emphasized the Person of Christ (who Jesus is) and the Work of Christ (what he did: especially on the cross and through the resurrection).

The gospel is not shared by merely asking, “Do you want to be a child of God” or “Do you want to be forgiven?” Those are great questions, and they may pave the road towards sharing the good news about who Jesus is and what he did, but they are not the gospel.

Our faith needs to be placed in Jesus Christ, for he alone is the giver of good news (which is what the word “gospel” means… “good news”). The gospel is the message of what Jesus did: he died as our substitute on the cross, taking upon himself the judgment that we deserve, and we claim his resurrection victory as our own by faith. Because of Jesus we have been reconciled, redeemed, and reunited with God. The rift that was torn between God and humanity has been restored. The wrath of God, which we earned because of our sinful rebellion against his sovereign reign, has been quenched by the cross. The sting of death has been defeated and given the death-sentence because of the resurrection.

The message of the gospel completely hinges upon who Jesus is (the Son of God) and what he did (took away the sin of the world through his death and resurrection). If you do not focus on Jesus you simply are not talking about the gospel.

3. Repentance
The only appropriate response to the gospel is repentance. When we recognize our sin, we see our need for a savior. When we believe in Jesus and place our faith in what he has done for us, we proclaim that our eternal destiny is completely dependent on him. If those two things are true of us, we need to understand repentance. Again, we look at the Apostles’ preaching to see the necessity of repentance,

I… declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance.” Acts 26:20

Technically, to “repent” means “to change your mind,” or “to turn around.” I like to explain it as doing an about-face. For more about repentance you can go here.

There are two main steps to repentance:

  1. Confessing that you are a sinner. Not just in a general sense, but to actually name your sins before God. “God, I’m proud. I want people to think I’m important and impressive and I tend to care more about their opinion than I care about your opinion.” Naming your sins before God doesn’t surprise him. Confession weakens your sin by staring it straight in the eye instead of playing pretend that you don’t have issues. If you can’t confess your sin, you cannot repent.
  2. Professing that God is better than your sin… and living like it. If you confess your pride but continue to live in it, then have you really admitted that it was wrong or did you simply pay lip-service to what you think was the “right thing” to pray? Confession leads to profession… saying that the joy of following God is greater than the happiness offered by sin. Simply put, this second step of repentance is “living it!” So you want to stop sinning? Great. Will you live differently?

Without repentance, faith is hollow and empty. We can claim to be Christians, and we can say that we believe in Jesus, but we are saying by our lives that we want eternal life with God but we want our independence right now.

Reminder: Jesus Wants to Make You New
If you are sharing the gospel with someone, be sure they realize that Jesus wants to make them new. New hope. New faith. New destiny. New freedom. New life.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17

Forgiveness is “free” in the sense that we can’t earn it and we certainly don’t deserve it. Becoming a Christian will cost you something. Obviously, we don’t give up all our sinful habits in the moment we give ourselves to Jesus. The Christian life is a lifelong habit of repentance because we’re always finding something new to confess and because we routinely slip into our old habits of believing that sin can bring more joy than Jesus.

I love to remind people that Jesus wants to make them new. Not new in a way that is completely different from the old; but new in a way that is more complete than what was there before.

A Final Encouragement: Remember the Holy Spirit
Remember that you are not alone. God cares more about the lost than you do, the Holy Spirit is actively working in that persons life. Salvation is never the result of human effort, it is always the work of God. He will use you to accomplish that work, but do not go about it in a way that puts the results in your own hands. If the person believes, then praise God for his faithfulness! If the person still doubts, then pray that God would continue to work in his or her life in such a way that they would come to see the joy and hope and newness of life that comes through faith in Jesus Christ.

Our Need, the Cross, & the Empty Tomb

(Note: This is my manuscript from this EBC’s Sunrise Service. If it sounds a bit different from most of the writing on this blog, it’s because it was written for spoken communication.)

It is early, and we gather to remember the powerful but simple message of the gospel: Jesus Christ who lived and died and rose from the grave in order that we might be reconciled to God and share in his victory over sin and death. For a few minutes this morning, I want us to turn our brains on to think about our need, the cross, and the empty tomb.

I have read that Martin Luther often hosted Easter Egg Hunts where the men hid eggs for the women and children to find. He believed this to be a beautiful reminder about the excitement the women felt when they found the empty tomb. May we all remember that joy not only today, but whenever we consider the resurrection.

Our Need
In Romans 5 the Apostle Paul compares Jesus with Adam. He even calls Jesus “the second Adam,” and says that Adam was really a “type” and foreshadowing of Jesus Christ.

Rom. 5:12 says, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.”

In Adam, we all sinned, we all fell, and became guilty before a holy God. Indeed, none of us can think, “Oh man, Adam, what a failure. I would’ve done better! I wouldn’t have messed it all up like he did.” Yes, yes you would have!

The fruit of sin is death, that’s why they are always paired together in Scripture. Wherever you see sin, death is soon to follow; wherever you see death, sin is not absent. Because of sin, our relationship with God was broken. Our relationship with each other was broken. And our relationship with creation was broken. If you need any proof that these relationships (with God, with others, and with creation) are broken, just consider the winter we’ve had!

The Cross: The Love and Wrath of God
But Paul continues in verses 18-21, “Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

What’s this all mean? It means that just as all creation fell in the first Adam, so all creation will be restored and redeemed in the second Adam, Jesus Christ. Through Christ’s death, sin and death were satisfied; through his resurrection they were conquered and given a death-sentence.

Because of the cross, the wrath of God was poured out on Jesus on our behalf. He was our substitute, in our place he hung. When we consider the love of God to us, we have no need to look any further than the cross. When we consider his wrath, again, the cross is where we should look. It was on the cross that the fullness of God’s love and the fullness of his wrath were simultaneously poured out in order to redeem his people.

The Empty Tomb: The Power and Hope of God
Good Friday would not be “good” without Easter Sunday. It would have been as tragic and devastating as it felt to the disciples on Saturday. If Christ died as our substitute but didn’t rise from the dead then our faith would be useless and we would still be under the curse of sin. Because of the resurrection, death is no longer an undefeated champion over humanity. Instead, the empty tomb gave death itself a death sentence.

The cross and the empty tomb must never be separated in our understanding of the gospel. So how shall we live in response to the cross and the empty tomb?

Paul writes that since we are in Christ, we have been brought from death to life, and we should live like it. Sin brings death… and so we walk away from sin and we present ourselves to God, as instruments of righteousness.

Because Jesus lives, we have new life and forgiveness of sins and an eternal hope.

It is important for us to always remember our need and God’s provision through Jesus Christ. Praise be to God who gave us Jesus, who died in our place and who rose in victory over sin and death so that we could be forgiven and restored before a holy God.

Worth Your Time 4/3/15

Each Friday I try to provide a few articles that are worth the time of parents and youth workers. These articles span a number of issues, and not all are written by Christians, but they are all “worth your time.” Here’s the latest edition:

4 Reasons to Believe in the Empty Tomb, by Rez Rezkalla (The Gospel Coalition)
“Was the tomb of Jesus of Nazareth found empty after his crucifixion? If not, then Christianity is the greatest lie in history. The apostle Paul says, “If Christ has not been raised fro the dead then your faith is futile and you are still in your sins” (1 Cor. 15:17). While the historicity of the empty tomb does not by itself prove the resurrection, it plays an important role.”

Is Mental Illness Actually Biblical?, by Stephen Altrogge (The Blazing Center)
“If I believe that sin has affected every part of my body, including my brain, then it shouldn’t surprise me when my brain doesn’t work correctly. I’m not surprised when I get a cold; why should I be surprised if I experience mental illness? To say that depression, anxiety, ADHD, bipolar, and every other disorder, are purely spiritual disorders is to ignore the fact that we are both body and soul. Mental illness is not something invented by secular psychiatrists. Rather, it is part and parcel with living in fallen, sinful world.”

It’s Time To Bench Virginity Pledges, by Cameron Cole (Rooted)
“Purity pledges tend to emphasize the commitment of the young person. The decision, signified by the certificate or ring, is central. Given our desperate need for God’s help in such a challenging struggle, greater attention needs to be given to God’s commitment to us. When we face temptation, God pledges to give us a way out. When we are caving, God promises us the Holy Spirit to lead us away from sin. When we fall, God commits to forgive and restore us in our contrition.”

Researchers Pinpoint the Optimal Amount of Math & Science Homework, by Jim Liebelt (HomeWord)
“When it comes to adolescents with math and science homework, more isn’t necessarily better — an hour a day is optimal — but doing it alone and regularly produces the biggest knowledge gain, according to research.”

Contradicting Bible Contradictions (website)
This is a website that answers specific “contradictions” that skeptics raise to show why we should not trust the Bible. This is a helpful site that is worth bookmarking on your internet browser so you can find it again when the need arises.